What was your first introduction to the Mighty Crusaders?
I was an avid comic collector in the sixties when The Crusaders first appeared. I liked the idea of the Archie Group delving into costumed heroes and thought they’d do as credible a job with the group as they’d been doing with The Jaguar and The Fly–two titles I enjoyed. Can’t say I was really impressed with the Crusaders, though. More than anything else, Paul Reinman’s art was a turn-off. The idea that these great old characters teaming really captured my imagination.
Did you choose the Comet, or was the job given to you?
When Archie revived the Red Circle line in the early eighties, I had no intention of working for the company. I was editing several titles for Western (Popeye, Turok, Yosemite Sam and others), working on a title for Pacific Comics that would keep a few of my old Warren artists busy (Bold Adventure) and had teamed with two partners to open a new magazine company (Ion International) with the intent of producing Videogaming Illustrated and Choclatier magazines, a couple of monthly newsstand titles. Carmine Infantino and I were also collaborating on several new ideas for DC, as well–one a title that company later used without us–Preacher. If memory serves, I might even have still been working with Warren. All this while still running my art studio, The Cartoon Factory. I was keeping busy.
How’d you get hooked up with Red Circle?
When Richard Buckler, recently-appointed editor of the Red Circle line, called to speak with his sister, Peggy, to whom I was married, I was surprised to hear, at the end of their conversation, that he wanted to speak with me. While friendly, we never really had much to do with each other–both of us too interested in our own paths.
He told me that he’d been having trouble with one of his titles–The Comet. No one quite seemed to know how to handle the character’s revival. He asked if I’d like to give the script a shot. I agreed, did a little research on the character, sat down, wrote and had twenty-odd pages to him in the next day or so.
Though The Comet probably wouldn’t have initially been my first choice, had I been given one, once I’d learned that the original series had been created by Jack Cole, my enthusiasm grew.
Did you choose the art team for the book?
My reputation, apparently, had preceded me to the Red Circle offices. When I walked in with my script, publishers Richard Goldwater and Michael Silberkleit took me aside and asked if I’d be interested in editing the Red Circle line. I have to say that I was honored–but shocked. When they told me they were unhappy with the way Richard was handling their comics, (specifically, their deadlines) I explained to them that I’d have my own troubles at home (not to mention in my other endeavors) if I suddenly took over his position. I told them I could help them with any title they felt was in trouble, but that I’d have to decline editorship of the entire line–for all of the aforementioned reasons.
I left the offices that day helming two titles–The Comet and The Black Hood. Hood’s assignments were already in the pipeline, but I knew there was one artists I had to have in the book–Alex Toth. I went home, called him, Carmine, Alex Nino and Rudy Nebres, asking all of them to join me at Red Circle. All enthusiastically agreed and I knew I had a pretty reliable stable of pros who would make my job as writer/editor not only easy but thoroughly enjoyable.
Why did the book only last 2 issues?
I joined the company pretty late in the game. A lot of deadlines had, apparently been missed, a lot of money apparently misspent. It was clear to see, from the start, that Goldwater and Silberkleit were unhappy with costs and results. They were used to fairly low overhead for their Archie titles and these new super-hero books, they felt, simply weren’t worth their efforts.
I got a call from Michael (I worked out of my Connecticut studio and never maintained an office at the Archie offices) one morning, telling me that he was sorry, but he and Richard (Silberkleit) had decided to discontinue the Red Circle line–that “it just isn’t worth the expense.”
What was your role in issues 2 and 3 of the Black Hood?
As I said, most of the assignments had already been made prior to my joining the company. I did want to give Alex Toth the opportunity to work on any of the old MLJ characters he pleased, however. He selected The Fox and it seemed as though it would be the perfect back-up series for The Black Hood.
I thought the second issue of the Comet was a nice commentary on certain things, and overall was a very moving plot. Comments?
As with anyone, there are certain topics that hit close to home. Comics may not be the best medium in which to address them all, but in the case of The Comet and his brother, The Hangman, I was given an opportunity to address issues that seemed to fit into the title’s continuity quite nicely. I would have loved the chance to work more with the DC characters to further explore the personal and psychological ramifications of cavorting about as a costumed hero. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be at DC never went out of their way to make me feel very welcome.
I have been told that there was a different cover planned for the second issue of the Comet. True?
Sorry, I don’t remember any other cover for issue #2 of The Comet other than the one that was used. It’s possible that I’ve forgotten, but to my best recollection, what was published was what was scheduled all along.
What was planned for issues 3-6 of the Comet?
It’s been almost twenty years since those stories were plotted and written, so it’s hard to remember specifics, but I do recall that I was planning for both of our heroes Comet and Hangman, to hang up their tights and follow more realistic directions in life. I think you’ll find that in any good story, there’s usually a hint or two of the ending dropped into the opening. In page two or three of The Comet #1, I think you’ll find John Dickering expressing his desire to hang up his mask and cape. Certainly, his nephew, Steve, the new Hangman, made a much better doctor than costumed vigilante.
I knew the idea of losing a valid character license (or two) wouldn’t go over well with Michael and Richard, but etching definitive endings into a character’s history seemed to me then, as now, a far more graceful way of ending a title than having it canceled because of slipping sales (or a publisher’s lack of interest).
Did it include Steve Dickering taking over full-time as the Hangman?
Yes, Steve would have continued on as The Hangman–only long enough to feel for himself the pressures and frustrations his father felt as that same costumed vigilante. He would have begun taking his frustration out on his love interest, Lori, realized that he was more like his father than he’d ever want to admit–then continue on in his role as a full-time doctor specializing in helping abused youth. Probably predictable, but I anticipated having a lot of fun getting there working with Carmine, Alex, Rudy and Adam (Kubert).
Some have speculated that the Comet introduced in the 60’s was supposed to be like a Barry Allen/Flash revamp character, with no real ties to the original. Were you going to touch on this at all?
Actually, I thought I had touched on it in the first issue. The storyline recaps the character’s origin, his early Jack Cole created adventures in Pep Comics and takes him to a distant planet and back again like, I believe, the sixties Comet. I may not have used that awful sixties costume, but the continuity was all there. Really didn’t feel it was my place to stray from what had been established before, whether I liked it or not.
And PLEASE tell me you were going to explain his 60’s costume as being some mental problem he was going through!
Okay–so the sixties costume was the one part of the continuity we ignored.
Any idea why the Red Circle line was all at once changed to Archie Adventure Series?
I seem to remember Michael mentioning that the Archie character license was far more profitable and valuable than the Red Circle franchise and that it was better to direct focus rather than spread it about uselessly.
And any comments on the line after your departure from there? When it quit being Red Circle, the continuity went out the window….BAD!
You know, there was a wonderful, intelligent, articulate gentleman at Archie who didn’t give a damn about continuity. He even felt, I believe, that fan overindulgent attention to continuity was one of the many things that were making comics virtually unreadable for the masses. I agreed then and continue to agree with his thinking. His name is Robin Snyder and, if given the opportunity, he could have breathed new life into the comics industry. He was Dick Giordano’s assistant at DC for a time, took over my books at Western Publishing, worked with Stanley Harris on his early Warren-inspired efforts and did more for the Archie Adventure Comics than he’ll ever be credited with. It was my pleasure to work with him on both the published and unpublished adventures of Red Circle’s Mr. Justice title and I would have loved to have seen him given even more latitude–especially at DC. He’s one of those rare, right-thinking individuals that would only have improved everything he touched in any medium in which he chose to work. Like him, I’ll take a good story over rigid continuity any time.